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Coronavirus Chaos

Coronavirus Vaccine Rollout Won’t Be Easy for Some States

COVID-19 Cells
COVID-19 Cells

When potentially life-saving coronavirus vaccine doses eventually become available for the rest of Americans who are not health-care workers or residents of nursing homes, there might be some major hurdles to work through, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

The former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration already witnessed the challenges posed by the administering of antibody drugs across the United States, and he admitted those same nagging issues might need to be dealt with for an expansive vaccine rollout as well.

Only an estimated 5 percent to 20 percent of shipped antibody drugs have been used to treat individuals who have tested positive for the virus but are not hospitalized.

“The experience with the antibody drugs is not a good harbinger,” he said Wednesday in an interview on CNBC.

“As we get into the next tranche of people to be vaccinated, which is going to be in the community, it might be challenging for states to distribute those vaccines if they can’t distribute the antibody drugs.”

Currently, with the initial vaccine rollout, states are giving priority to frontline health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Gottlieb, though, said he expects to see an increase in vaccine availability as soon as next month, which means that many more Americans will have the opportunity to get inoculated.

“I think you’re going to see some stark differences in accessibility across the states, and again, the antibody drugs is a harbinger of that,” said Gottlieb, a physician who worked at the FDA under President Donald Trump and former President George W. Bush.

“If we are leaving this fully up to fifty states, we can expect to see a lot of differences between how well this is run and who gets access to it and who doesn’t, and that’s going to be unfortunate because in an ideal world, you want to see more uniformity.”

Nearly three million of Pfizer’s recently approved coronavirus vaccine doses have been shipped to 145 designated locations across the United States. More doses could be on the way if Moderna is granted an emergency use authorization for its vaccine candidate this week.

It also has been reported that Pfizer’s vaccine vial now contains roughly six to seven doses, instead of the previously announced five doses. The FDA has already green-lighted medical professionals to use the extra doses, which could potentially increase the vaccine supply by up to 40 percent.

“At this time, given the public health emergency, FDA is advising that it is acceptable to use every full dose obtainable (the sixth, or possibly even a seventh) from each vial, pending resolution of the issue,” a spokesperson from the agency said.

Health officials are expecting to see about forty million doses available by the end of this year, which would be sufficient to inoculate twenty million individuals since the vaccine requires two doses.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

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Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

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